The Peace Corps Mission: To promote world peace and friendship.
That mission statement is the simplest and one of the more meaningful statements I’ve ever come across. It hasn’t been modified in 55 years…no need to! It says it all, to us peacemongers.
As I discovered during my service in Ghana, questions from friends and family quickly move beyond “what do you eat?” and “what’s the weather like?” into “just what DO you do there?” For my friends who follow me on Facebook, you may already have a fair idea. But this is for the rest of you!
To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
Volunteers are brought to a country at the invitation of the country. Our goal is to integrate and support, not take over. The Imereti Union of Scientists “Spectri” works on environmental issues through education, advocacy, outreach and practical projects to implement new community projects. My kind of organization!!
OK, I have to say that the office of women I work with is already a talented group. Sometimes I wonder if they really need me. They’ve got the connections and the talent. They’ve got the environmental knowledge and commitment. But exactly because it’s a small group, the workload can quickly be overwhelming. This is where I hope I can help the most: not by doing the work (I’m not proficient in the language), but by doing the needed research and networking, and sometimes by coming up with a different slant on an old idea. Say hello to Spectri! And Like them on Facebook.
Yes, waste management is critical. The United Nations has identified the above 17 Global Goals, and WasteAid UK (an organization I’m in contact with as part of my research) has put together this very fine relationship chart of how waste affects every single one of those 17 goals. We in America take recycling for granted. Most volunteers who come to Georgia feel uneasy about the lack of recycling opportunities here. I find myself saving my old batteries to bring back to the US because I don’t want another speck of mercury to enter the waste stream!
Spectri is best known for their recent signature project of installing plastic recycling bins in Kutaisi and Tkibuli (a nearby coal-mining town), and has two more grants to expand recycling in 5 communities. These are the first municipality-managed recycling projects in all of Georgia, as best I can tell (please…someone prove me wrong!). Though there are many private efforts, the concept of municipal management is missing. Here is a storyboard I made of the situation in Kutaisi.
My latest plan is to change that dynamic. While municipalities should be able to collect the recycling, I hope to help identify ways to setup a public/private partnership, possibly using a cooperative model, to move the recycled materials into the new product, income/job-generating arena. Spectri already has great connections with NGOs and municipalities all over western Georgia in particular, and some parts of eastern Georgia. They don’t have business or cooperative experience, so that’s where I hope to help the most. Stay tuned on this blog for evolving details!
Celebrations should always be part of any hard work, and celebrating Earth Day on 22 April this year was part of my work. We had a huge array of Earth Day activities, culminating in this lovely event with kids from that coal-mining town that I mentioned.
This is the next generation, the one that will really understand and commit to recycling and energy efficiency…and understand the climate change reasons why! Spectri is particularly good at education, and it’s great to watch them in action.
Speaking of educating the youth of today, here’s another great environmental activity I recently helped with: a GREEN Camp for youth between the ages of 12-17. This will bring you to the photo video of the cleanup event on the 3rd day of the camp. The kids were all jazzed by it, and several are posting additional cleanup activities they are engaged in now. Of course, part of the requirement for getting their camp certificate is to go out and do 4 energy or waste actions in the community. But it’s amazing how cleaning up a nasty site can really open one’s eyes to all the waste that is around just on the streets and sidewalks.
To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
When I tell most Georgians that I’m from America, their first idea is that I must be from New York or California. There’s not much more to the country than that, right?
Wrong! It helps when I explain that Wisconsin is between Chicago and Canada, and they will nod knowingly…”Chicago!” But 90210, crime shows, and news of guns and street violence are not an American.
At a recent Education USA Fair in Batumi, about a dozen Volunteers spent an afternoon representing their alma maters. I would not have been able to do this in Ghana (no college degree!), but I was happy to do that for Edgewood College with my new (at the age of 60) BS in International Relations!
At the Volunteer Fair here in Kutaisi last month, I not only staffed the Spectri table to promote environmental awareness, but made sure that the RPCVs of Madison ‘we all’ posters were cunningly hung about the room! I continue to support my group back home, easily done through the world culture calendars, notecards and posters available we produce for sale in support of PC and other multicultural activities.
Raising awareness about other countries in the world is as important as raising awareness about Americans.
To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
I love the Peace Corps World Wise Schools program. Connecting with grade schools in the US and answering questions from kids about life in another country is great fun. The day before I left Madison I went to the classroom for about 45 minutes and talked about Georgia. This gave the kids a chance to know the real person they were communicating with. I did the same thing during my Ghana service, but this time was better since it was with my granddaughter’s 5th grade class in Madison. What a wonderful way to stay connected to her!
So, my friends, know that Georgia is an incredible place. Hiking, camping and birding opportunities abound. Religion is huge here, and you can visit monasteries and churches with thousands of years of history. People are welcoming. The food, wine and beer are excellent. Yes, Turkey is on our southwest border, and Russia on our northern border. It creates an interesting political environment. But it feels safer to me than back home. It is a good place to work.
მშვიდობით ახლა! (Peace Now!)